According to a reports on Tuesday, a dog died on a United Airlines flight after a flight attendant reportedly told its owner to place it in the overhead bin. United Airlines confirms the incident in a statement to Bustle, calling it "a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin."
The statement also notes, "We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."
Another passenger on the flight, Maggie Gremminger, tweeted about the incident. "I just flew into LGA and witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a passenger to put her dog bag in the overhead bin," the tweet read. "It was clearly a dog and while the customer was adamant about leaving it under the seat, the attendant pushed her to do so."
Flying in from Houston, Texas, Gremminger told People magazine she was on the United Airlines flight 1284 headed to Laguardia Airport in New York City. Gremminger claimed one of the attendants forced another passenger's dog into the overhead bin in order to make space in the aisle. She added that she tried to find out if it was safe to contain pets in such constricted and possibly suffocating places, but couldn't find anything as she had to switch her phone's connectivity off prior to take-off.
While speaking with People, Gremminger said, "The flight attendant told the passenger that her bag was blocking part of the aisle. I could not see it, as I was already in my seat, but it sounded like it was somehow not completely fitting beneath the seat in front of her."
She added, "After the flight attendant asked her to move it above, the woman adamantly refused, communicating her dog was in the bag. There was some back and forth before finally the flight attendant convinced her to move the carrier to the bin above."
Gremminger told People that she could understand why the situation was "hard." She said that the United Airlines attendant was in a position of "authority" and must have known that it was safe to stow a pet in the overhead section. "I was thinking, 'May there is an improved ventilation system' or something of the sorts," Gremminger said.
The distressed passenger also said that she empathized with the woman as she was accompanied by an infant and a young girl and probably didn't want to create a scene. While speaking with People, Gremminger said that she could hear the dog in the overhead section, yelping and howling. The dog reportedly yelped during the flight a few more times but then it "was silent."
Once United Airlines flight 1284 arrived in New York City, Gremminger said that the passenger retrieved her pet's carrier and realized, much to her shock, that her dog was dead. "A stranger offered to hold her newborn while she sat on the floor, there in the airplane aisle. She was holding her dog and rocking back and forth. Her daughter was also crying," Gremminger told People. She said the flight attendant was "frazzled" and said that she didn't know there was a pet inside the carrier.
The Tuesday report won't reflect positively on the airline company. According to data from the Department of Transportation, United Airlines had the highest number of pet-related deaths in 2017. For what it's worth, the company has clear guidelines on how to accommodate traveling pets. "A pet traveling in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times," its official website says.